MOVING FOR A DREAM
In this interview I talk to comedian Mara Wiles about moving from Denver to New York City to pursue comedy. Mara is one of the funniest and hard working comedians working today whose standup combines improvisation with honest interpretations of her reality. She weaves stories about her past with quips about dry humping and always leaves crowds second guessing their own choices. I had the pleasure of working with her several times while living in Denver and am glad we could make this interview happen!
How long ago did you move to NYC and why?
We moved at the start of March 2017. After doing comedy in Denver the last 8 years it felt like time for a change and I had always wanted to live and do comedy in NYC.
What is your goal in NYC?
To get funnier, collaborate with different types of creatives, work the road in a totally new part of the country and hopefully make some career advancements. IE become the new Jimmy Fallon or be discovered as a model.
How many times do you get to perform a week in NYC versus when you lived in Denver?
In Denver, I was an established comic who regularly got featured and headlining spots on regional and local shows. Most weeks I was performing 5 nights a week and making a little money too. Here it is a lot more mics and less stage time as I am navigating a new scene in my first few months. I haven’t hit the mics like this since my first few years of standup! The cool thing is through at some of these mics you are going up with TV writers and people with Late Night credits. There are so many talented comics whom I had never met before so that in itself make the mics entertaining.
I knew moving it would be a huge adjustment so I had my ego in check before we came out. It is humbling to be a big name in your city and then move and feel like you are starting over but it’s not starting over if you just rely on your talent, jokes and yourself. Which can be hard at times cause of this nagging jerk I call self doubt. I am starting to get booked more and more now which is great cause MAMA NEEDS THE SPOTLIGHT.
What do you wish someone had told you before you moved to NYC?
The set up of the scene is way different and navigating it takes some insight. In Denver we have Comedy Works, this great club and a lot of our ambitions and goals stem from becoming a regular at the club and it trickles down from there. We have a great comedy scene in Denver but you could probably name all of the show runners and shows within the city limits with little to no trouble. Here there are like 5 plus scenes within the city, numerous clubs of merit, a lot of comics have some sort of TV credit and there are countless shows. Getting booked here and getting passed at the clubs here is a way different process then back home. Also, no one told me everyone would be so nice. It’s hard making new friends in any situation but all the comics I have met so far have been great, welcoming and happy to give advice when you ask. I haven’t met any real stinkers yet they are probably hanging out on Garbage Island.
You moved with your BF who is also a comedian, how did moving together affect your relationship?
My relationship with Kevin (O’Brien) has been the one thing that has gotten me thru the most challenging experiences in my life with love and humor. We rely on each other to bring each other up when the other is down and when we are both up, we reap the rewards (STEAK DINNERS). We both encourage each other to be our best and support each others comedy goals. Moving is one of the biggest adventures we have taken together and it has made us stronger and just reaffirmed that I am very lucky to have him as a partner.
Why NYC and not Los Angeles?
Both Kevin and I have always wanted to live in NYC. It excites me and motivates me. LA is cool and we know some great people there but I am happy to ditch my car for the subway. Also, interesting fact there really are not a ton of comics from Denver who have moved to the Big Apple so it is cool to rep our home scene as we build a names for ourselves.
How did you go about finding work and a place to live?
We got very lucky finding a place to live but that is one of the perks of being a comic: comics help other comics. Our friend Jack Comstock (a comic originally from Omaha) had a room open up for a great price and we connected with him to take it. We have roommates now (which is a change) but we are paying less than we did in Denver so that’s a perk. All our roommates are comics so it makes for a great living situation.
There are also numerous comic housing groups on Facebook that are a great resources when looking for a place to live.
Jack also got me my job dog walking too. Jack really deserves some sort of medal. I am always looking for another hustle and we are still so new but I rely on other comics and friends to give me any leads on a great side gigs. We also saved quite a bit before we moved and that has been helpful to have that cushion.
You toured around the country quite a bit before moving to NYC, how has that changed since moving there?
It hasn’t yet. We (Kevin and I) are doing a small tour in Seattle, WA and British Columbia at the end of June. Hopefully, we will start doing more road work in the Northeast and East Coast as we get more established here.
How are the comedy scenes different between Denver and NYC?
Sheer size, diversity and variety of comedy styles. It is also nice to be in a scene so big and with so many moving parts that you aren’t comparing yourself to other people and there isn’t as much scene drama. There is too much going on to get wrapped up in other people’s BS.
Did you ever see yourself living in NYC before starting comedy?
Yes, this has always been a place I saw myself living, twirling in a city square, tossing my hat up, getting late night drinks at a cafe and then stumbling on a hidden gin joint doing the Charleston till the break of dawn. The Charleston is HUGE here.
You left a lot behind in Denver successful shows, some club work, and legal pot do you ever regret leaving?
No regrets. I grew up in Colorado and was ready for a change. While I miss friends, the professional connections I made, the shows I was running and the conveniences of my sweet, sweet Mary Jane this was a move I needed to do. I was getting comfortable and I never want to be settling when it comes to comedy or my life. It is good to change and keep moving. I love living here and discovering this city’s culture and comedy.
Denver is getting pricier to live in every day, how does the cost of living in NYC compare to Denver?
NYC is pricey but it is kind of what you make of it. We lucked out on an apartment that works within our budget and we are paying less than we did in Denver. Kevin is great at living on a dime and making it last. The things that man can do with a 25 cent pack of ramen! We treat ourselves to experience here and there like a Broadway musical for me or some pricey noodle house for him but overall just living here you can walk around and find things to do and see for cheap.
Weed is more expensive here and that is something I lament on everyday but hopefully soon it will be legal everywhere and no more wars will be fought.
How has moving to NYC helped your comedy?
It is just the beginning of living but it is helping me write more concise jokes. Mic times are limited so you work on parts of your sets differently. It is also helping me think in broad strokes about the world of comedy. There is a lot of it out there the more you see and experience is inspiring. Gets your brain moving in new and exciting ways. Also, there are just a million weird things happening everyday right in front of you that might inspire your next joke.
Huge thanks again to Mara for doing this interview and if your in New York City go check her out!!!